18 July, 2021- Eighth Sunday in Pentecost, Proper 11B
The Rev. Anoma Abeyaratne
Sermon preached by The Rev. Anoma Abeyaratne
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
There is a story that is told of an archaeologist who once hired some inker tribesmen to lead him to a site deep in the mountains. Some of you may recall this story from a couple of years ago. After the group had been traveling for a while, the tribesmen stopped. They insisted they would go no farther. The archaeologists was puzzled, he grew impatient, and then angry. But no matter how much he cajoled, the tribesmen would not go any farther. Then all of a sudden, they picked up their gear, and set off one small. When the bewildered archaeologists asked them why they had stopped and refused to move for so long, the tribesmen replied, we had been moving way too fast. And we just had to wait for our souls to catch up. Have you been moving too fast? Have you allowed time for your soul to catch up? As our gospel opens today, the 12 apostles have returned from their mission. They gather around Jesus to tell him all that they had taught and done. I’m struck by the way Jesus welcomes the disciples back to the community. He lessons as the stories pour out of them, some of the disciples seem elated and proud of what they were able to do. Some seem to be carrying the weight of the more difficult moments they experienced on their journey. And some, or maybe all of them was sorting through a jumble of mixed emotions, as they reflected on what they had been through. Jesus responds by listening by deciding to take them away by themselves in a boat, to a deserted place where they could rest a while. Jesus Himself needed a period of rest and reflection. He was trying to decide what was next. withdrawing from the crowds for privacy is fairly common in Mark’s gospel. But in today’s text, it seems to be associated not with a need for prayer or instruction, but for rest after mission. All three Gospel writers include this story, but have different versions of it. Matthew relates this withdrawing to Jesus hearing of john the baptist that that we heard about last Sunday. Whereas Luke with no explanation for the action, says the Jesus and the disciples with truehd withdrew to the city of Bethsaida. Marks deserted place is unspecified geographically, but serves to get the 12 out of the public traffic that has prevented there having time enough even to eat. In our busy technology driven culture, it seems especially important that we intentionally stop and pause and reflect before moving on. finding time to rest every day, during the week, during the month, perhaps in the year has been one of the most challenging practices for me.
And some of you may be wondering why I’m talking about slowing down. When we have only just begun to come out of a year of a year long period of physical isolation due to the pandemic won’t be forced to rest this past year. I suggest that our bodies may have been forced to slow down. But what about our minds and our souls? A couple of months ago, I was listening to a podcast on on being listening to this particular podcast made me realize that I was not the only one still feeling exhausted, sometimes forgetful and sometimes lacking motivation. Coming out of these 15 months of pandemic, and physical isolation. Some of you on the other hand may feel full of energy and ready to go and wonder why people around you are dragging a little please be patient with us. The slow folks who will catch up with you eventually. Here is an excerpt from that interview that I was talking about.
My conversations with friends and colleagues right now all circled back to the same place. The light at the end of the COVID tunnel is tenuously appearing, yet we feel as exhausted, as at any time in the past year. memory problems, short fuses, sudden drops into what feels frighteningly like depression, fractured productivity that alternately puzzles and shames us. We are at one six cited and unnerved by the prospect of life opening up again. Krista, Krista Tippett reports that she went searching for someone to shed light on the psychic and physiological and spiritual effects of a year of pandemic and physical isolation, which led her to the clinical psychologist Christine Runyan. In the podcast Professor Runyan explains how the very first news of the threat of a new virus in the world instantaneously activated our stress responses sent our nervous systems into overdrive from which they have never retreated. In other words, the pandemic has disrupted our mind body connection, which is always as sensitive to what is imagined as to what is real. And that became the shaky foundation on which we have each had to carry all of the other events, the losses and traumas that have followed in court. These days when I come home after work, I have to remind myself to pause before I move on to checking voicemail or checking the mail or deciding what I’m going to cook for dinner. I sometimes sit in front of the television to watch something like recently I watched my octopus teacher on Netflix or I color page on coloring pages are just said staring out into the garden. admiring the beauty of the flowers, watching the rain Perhaps leaf moving in the light breeze. Prior to the pandemic, I would have thought these mundane activities as an absolute waste of time. Because I was getting nothing done. Through these many months of solitude, I have become so much more aware and attune to the importance of pausing, resting, reflecting, letting go of my work day. Before moving on with the rest of my day. I’m amazed at how much more relaxed and energized I feel after a short rest. And some evenings I will pray the Office of complain from the Book of Common Prayer, reciting the Psalms, reading a scripture passage, praying a couple of the prayers, or singing a hymn all as a way to pause, be still and prepare for sleep. Here are some stances that come to mind. I lie down in peace at once I fall asleep for only you, Lord, keep me in safety. Come on to me, all you. Come on to me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Guide us waking or Lord and Goddess sleeping. That awake we may watch with Christ and asleep, we may rest in peace. Joan chittister A Benedictine nun and activist once described our lives in these words, we drive ourselves from one exhaustion to another VPS our societies by the pace of our computers, we conduct the major relationships of our lives, both professional and personal, according to the speed of our communications. We measure ourselves by our productivity, and every day we become more exhausted, less rested in body, spirit and mind. And so less capable of producing things, let alone developing relationships. That’s not irony. That’s tragedy, she says. And though we know it, we do not know what to do about it. She goes on to say, maybe that we all need most is time to process what we already know. So that we can put put it together differently, even more effectively than ever before. In these times of uncertainty, let us rest in God. Let us remember St. Augustine of hippos words, our souls are restless, till they rest in you Oh Lord, and law and now. Let’s just take a moment to pause. Breathe in the words. God knows me. God loves me. I am enough. Breathe out anything that you wish to let go. And again, breathe in any form of the words. God knows me. And God loves me. And I am enough. Breathe out anything that you wish to let go. And once again, breathe in the words. God knows me. God loves me. I am enough. Breathe out anything you want to let Go off, surrendered to God rests in the awareness of God’s presence, knowing that you are loved and never separated from that presence. And remember to give yourself the permission to move slowly and allow your soul the time to catch up.